Licence to roam suits McGlynn fine


Donegal star admits progress this season has been fuelled by a collective hunger, KEITH DUGGANreports

FRANK McGLYNN is the perfect embodiment of the deep-running attacking game which has helped to carry Donegal to Sunday’s All-Ireland final. It wasn’t just the perfectly-timed goal in the Ulster final against Down or that famously stylish point when he nonchalantly curled a left-footed shot over the Cork crossbar. It is the fact the sight of McGlynn coming like a torpedo into the last third of the pitch has now become common place. And the Glenfin man can’t disguise the fact he loves the licence to roam.

“Last year we had a successful campaign but chances to get forward were few and far between. I only came out from corner back the odd time. But lucky enough pushing out to the half-back line for periods this year has given us more opportunities. And the team as a whole is getting forward and we are scoring more. I think I had popped over the odd point in the league before but this was my first championship score. I play half back all the time with the club. At underage I would have been half forward or even full forward . . . I seem to be going back all the time.”

McGlynn has been such a conspicuous element of the Donegal framework that it is easy to forget he is one of the more experienced members of the panel. This is his seventh championship season so he is well versed in the years when the team was unable to win a game in Ulster and in the punishing experience of 2009, when the northwesterners were humiliated in their quarter-final against Cork.

For the newer members of the squad like Mark McHugh and Paddy Campbell, life in senior colours has been largely about winning and positive experience. But McGlynn can appreciate just how far the squad has travelled. Even in the worst of times, Donegal seemed to have a surfeit of fast, adaptable peripheral defenders and McGlynn was usually terrific at holding his own patch. But Donegal’s evolving style of play, with a fresh emphasis on breaking at speed, has given him the chance to exhibit an attacking instinct that dates back to his underage years in the game. He says now that conversations on what the team would have to do to improve their scoring ratio began shortly after their loss to Dublin in last year’s semi-final.

“I do think we were back within weeks. We had a bit of a talk about what went wrong against Dublin and what we could improve on. When you score six points in an All-Ireland semi-final, it was going to have to improve and we have done that. Anyway you win is a good way . . . no matter what way you reach a final, you will be happy.”

Stories of the gruelling training hours accumulated by the Donegal men began to circulate this spring. The stories are probably more frightening than the sessions but they have propelled the notion Donegal “can’t last”: that their conditioning can only achieve short time gain followed by burn-out. McGlynn shrugs at the notion. “If you buy into that theory, you will trick yourself into thinking that. Jim (McGuinness) and Rory (Gallagher) are very aware we have to be kept fresh as well even though we have a lot of work done since January. So they have us well looked after.

“They know when we look tired and when the bodies are tired and that has worked all year. Hopefully it will work after this year as well. When you are getting the rewards of reaching All-Ireland semi-finals, you don’t seem to think about the early morning sessions or the late night sessions.”

But he is happy to concede Donegal’s progress has been fuelled by a collective hunger. The motivations are different: for the more senior players, the main objective was to put as much distance as they could between those years of underachievement. Now they are at the point where they have two Ulster medals and are in an All-Ireland final. Not only that; the team that couldn’t win a game in Ulster are now regarded as raging favourites within the county. The public mood is delirious and, for the players, slightly dangerous. But McGlynn is aware of the dangers of complacency and doesn’t see it as an issue.

When Mayo played Dublin in the semi-final, a round of championship fixtures scheduled in Donegal were played at noon. McGlynn watched the match on his sofa. “I caught most of it in the house. We played Dublin last year and got six points against them. Mayo got 0-17 which is a massive score against a defence like that. They were very impressive in the first half. I would be lying if I said I wasn’t surprised but after 10 minutes, you got the sense Mayo were really up for this and they just seemed to get stronger and stronger in the first half.

“That period just before half-time was vital. They hit some massive scores and it shows they have players who are not afraid to take on their shots. If you were going in against Dublin, you would be wondering if they had the hunger. That won’t be the case with Mayo. But this is all new for us and Mayo. They were last in an All-Ireland final in 2006 so some of their players have experienced it. They are going to have a huge appetite for this.”

MINOR FINAL: Meath make one change

Meath have made one change in personnel for Sunday’s All-Ireland minor football final against Dublin with Ruairi Ó Coileain coming into the defence at the expense of Conor Carton.

After starting in all of the side’s league and championship outings, Ó Coileain was forced to miss the quarter-final clash with Tyrone because of illness but returned as a second-half substitute for the semi-final success over Mayo.

Team captain Pádraic Harnan and Shane McEntee, son of manager Andy, swap positions, being named at centre-back and midfield respectively.

MEATH MF: R Burlingham; R O Coileain, B Power, S Gallagher; D Smyth, P Harnan, S Lavin; S McEntee, A Flanagan; C O’Sullivan, J Daly, J McEntee; B Dardis, F Ward, S Coogan.

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